07.09.18 - 09.09.18 - I moved away for a weekend a bit further north for the 30th B-Day celebration of Clementine. A great occasion to catch up with some old friends. Also a good opportunity to have a look at the regional species. Overall a very good weekeed mixing, nature, sport, drinking, friends and obviously photography.
I was picked up by Marion and Fred nearby the motorway around 5 P.M. on the Friday and here we were stuck in the car for a good four and half hours driving to the "domaine de Jonchy" in "Saint Julien".
We arrived around 10 P.M. meet up with our hosts (Jérôme and Clémentine) and with a couple of guests that were already arrived. After a brief dinner joined by some punch and beers, Fred and myself were invited to play a couple of games of "petanque" with the cousins and brother in law of Clementine. Three wins later, around 2 o'clock in the morning everyone decided that it was enough petanque (especially the losers...) and to go to bed... Nevertheless, I was not totally ready to crash as since we've got there I could believe how stunning the night was with a sky dotted with stars... I thought "let's have a go at something I'm really bad at"... astrophotography...
We went to bed but not for a very long night as I decided to get up a bit earlier than the rest of the guests to visit a little "lake" that I have spotted on Google maps, hoping for some wildlife encounters.
As my 150-600S lens has followed my "dear one" to the North of France, I had to use my backup lens, 70-200 2.8 coupled with x2 iii extender. I'm not unhappy with the result, the only negative point I find with this combination is a slower AF compared to when I use the 150-600. One positive point is that this setup is way lighter than with the "sigmazooka".
Anyway, let's get back to our encounters of the day... To be fair I have not seen much. I was hoping more birds but the "lake" turned to be actually a small pond suffering from eutrophication, with large amounts of alga on its surface probably responsible for the lack of biodiversity.
First encounter of the day was .... a red squirrel. It may not be so exciting but actually for the record, red squirrel populations have experienced a drop down since the american species also known as grey squirrel and categorised as an invasive species. Grey squirrel because of their higher tolerance to certain diseases and parasites tend to take over on red squirrels natural habitats.
Second encounter of the day was a green woodpecker. It took me ages to realise what it was as the bloody idiot was standing in a tree just behind me but I had no way of seeing it (and neither did it) I could just hear him. After a good hour it finally decided moving to the tree just in front of me (about 6 meters from me) but impossible to see him as he stopped behind a large clump of leaves. It then moved further away from me and I finally managed to get a long range shot and to ID it.
The first picture is just to get an idea of the distance, I reckon it was at a good 200 meters away from me. The two others are cropped pictures to identify it (obviously poor quality).
Third encounter involved a little passerine that I'm still looking to identify (I'll update it when I'll know). Fourth encounter was a jay, surprisingly very shy bird I had to shoot it from a long range distance. For some people that might not be very exciting but we don't see them very often around the Carcassonne area. You have to head a bit further north or to the "foresty" area to find them.
Last encounter of the day was a common buzzard. I have generally lost the motivation for taking pictures of bird of preys as they are hard to focus especially with a bright blue sky, and without a pendular gimbal and a tripod it becomes rapidly a tricky and heavy exercise. As this one was circling quite low I've adopted a new approach to take the shot without the tripod. I just laid down on the floor, on my back and just shot in that position when the bird was passing just above me. Not the best pictures I ever made but quite okay. I let you judge.
I finally headed back to the domain to have a shower, meet up with the rest of the guests that had arrived and enjoy the celebration.
On the following day, I decided to get up early and check if the red squirrel had some kind of daily routine and as expected, it did...
Nothing very exciting for the rest of that morning. I took a couple of pictures of a chap doing some paragliding.
Later during that day I also went back to that tree in the middle of the domain backyard,... I don't know why I just found it stunning and had another couple of shots at it (1 with my dslr, 2 with my smartphone). These were the last pictures of that long weekend.